The 2021/22 Arabian Gulf cruise season is shaping up to be one of the slowest in over a decade, with just five cruise ships currently offering cruises from Dubai, as the global cruise industry struggles to resume operations.
Last year was meant to be the biggest cruise season on record for Dubai, with ten cruise ships from nine cruise lines homeporting in the city and sailing roundtrip cruises in the Arabian Gulf, but it was cut short by the pandemic in March.
Dubai reopened for cruises late last year, but with global travel restrictions still in place for many of the major source markets for fly-cruise holidays to the region, none of the planned cruises from Dubai were able to go ahead and the 2020/21 cruise season never got off the ground.
Now, with travel corridors opening up and major cruise markets such as the UK implementing traffic light systems for foreign travel, it looks like the coming 2021/22 cruise season between November and March may be able to go ahead.
TUI Cruises has published cruises from Dubai for its ship Mein Schiff 6, which will homeport in Dubai from October, 2021 until February, 2022.
Mein Schiff 6 will sail alternating 7-night Dubai cruise itineraries, visiting Abu Dhabi, Doha, Muscat and Khasab on one set of itineraries, and only Abu Dhabi and Doha on the other. On these itineraries, the ship will stay overnight in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
TUI will interport between Dubai and Doha, meaning that fly-cruise passengers can choose either port as the point of embarkation.
MSC Cruises will also interport between Dubai and Doha, and will be bringing two cruise ships to Dubai for the 2021/22 cruise season, as it has done for the last three years.
The most exciting of the two is MSC Virtuosa, its new Meraviglia-Plus class cruise ship, which features waterparks, humanoid robotic bartenders, Formula 1 race car simulators, and dozens of bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as its own full-scale shopping mall.
MSC Virtuosa will arrive in Dubai in November, operating roundtrip cruises from Dubai of 7-nights, visiting Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, Doha in Qatar and, in a surprise move announced last month, Dammam in Saudi Arabia. She’ll spend a night in port in Dubai at the end of each cruise.
The much smaller MSC Opera will interport between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, sailing 7-night cruises from Dubai and Abu Dhabi that visit Muscat in Oman, and Sir Bani Yas Island off the UAE. On each Dubai call, the ship will spend two nights in port.
Both ships will remain in the Arabian Gulf until March, 2022.
Costa Cruises, which was the first cruise ship ever to homeport in Dubai in 2006, was one of the first to confirm its return to the region for the 2021/22 Arabian Gulf cruise season.
Costa had initially scheduled cruises from Dubai aboard Costa Diadema, which has previously homeported in the Arabian Gulf, but then switched her with Costa Smeralda, before replacing Smeralda with Costa Pacifica. Most recently, the cruise line instead announced that its new cruise ship Costa Firenze would homeport in Dubai.
Costa Firenze will arrive in Dubai in December and cruise roundtrip from the city on 7-night itineraries. Costa Firenze’s cruises from Dubai will visit Abu Dhabi, Doha, Muscat, and Bahrain, with the ship staying overnight in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muscat.
AIDAnova will homeport in Dubai for the winter cruise season. She will depart Palma de Mallorca on November 5th, 2021 on her respositioning cruise to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and will remain in the Middle East cruise market until April 7th, 2022, when she will sail for Hamburg, Germany.
AIDA Cruises has not confirmed exact itineraries for AIDAnova yet, but they are likely to feature Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Doha, Khasab and Sir Bani Yas Island.
At 183,000-gross tons and carrying a maximum of 6,654 passengers, she is slightly larger than MSC Virtuosa, making her the largest cruise ship ever to homeport in Dubai, and the largest ever to spend an entire cruise season in the Arabian Gulf.